Black History Month Roundup 2017


31 October 2017


As October draws to a close, a huge thank you to everyone who took part in our Black History Month (BHM) events and celebrations.

Girl dancing for Black History MonthThis year Black History Month was 30 years old. The theme for the month focussed on the important role Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities have played in the housing sector. It was a good opportunity to reflect on what has been achieved in the last 30 years and the work still to be done. 

Over the month we've enjoyed a huge range of events across all the Optivo regions. There has been panel discussions, food tasting events, family fun days, spoken word artists and poets. The Optivo Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Team have worked hard to bring together a fantastic programme of celebrations.

Panel discussions launch our Black History Month
Panel discussion eventOur Black History month started with several panel discussion events. In Croydon our Optivo Vice-Chair, Steve Douglas was joined by resident Leroy Gittens  and CEO of Gateway Housing, Sheron Carter. The panel 'Q&A' event  was streamed to other sites across Optivo's four regions, so staff and residents could hear about the panellists experiences of working in housing and the challenges they’ve faced.

In Colwell House, Equality specialist Celia Oke, hosted a panel event and was joined by Optivo staff Jermaine Sterling and Maabena Adae-Amoakoh. Rita Akushie of Thames Valley Housing also took part. Again the panel discussed the hot topics facing Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff and residents within housing today.

Silas Zephania, Teacher & Hip Hop artist

Black History Month discussion group
We were delighted to be joined by Life Seeds Teacher and Hip Hop artist, Silas Zephania. Silas joined us for two events with residents and staff to discuss the importance of black history and keeping information alive so future generations are taught the facts about their heritage. All those who attended agreed it was an inspiring look at Black History. After the discussions everyone enjoyed a selection of African and Caribbean inspired cuisine that went down very well!

Spoken Word artist - Zita Holbourne

Our ‘Speaker’s Corner’ event – featured special guest, Zita Holbourne, a spoken word artist. Zita is an experienced performance poet, community and political activist, anti-austerity and anti-racism campaigner. She performed works on a range of topics from her recently published book: 'Striving For Equality, Freedom And Justice'.

Equality Forum focus on BHM
More than 50 residents in our Sussex region attended our October Single Equality Forum. Alvin Culzac, resident of Battle, East Sussex, a singer and poet, read his poem on growing up and moving away from his home in the Caribbean.  The Equality Forum was also joined by guest speaker James Johnson from Friends of Africa & the Caribbean in England (FACE) who told of his ancestry. He also gave information on how sickle cell affects his community.

Celebrating with Optivo residents

During half term our Resident Involvement Teams organised a number of events including several resident community fun days. Residents in Lambeth were treated to a BBQ and wide selection of food from around the world. Children’s entertainment included: face painting, bouncy castle, arts and crafts. There was also entertainment from African traditional drummers, steel pan band, living history monologues and lots more! There was so much for everyone to enjoy including workshops on flower arranging, textile printing, bag making, and bead jewellery making. The Mayor of Lambeth, Councillor Marcia Cameron attended. She said she was delighted to see Optivo celebrate Black History Month with Lambeth residents.

In Battersea, at our Community Fun Day, residents enjoyed traditional dancing and music. The event featured a delicious food festival with African and Caribbean food for all to enjoy.

Man playing music to celebrate Black History MonthBHM in Birmingham

Harmony House and Barbara Glasgow House in Birmingham hosted a Black History Month event. More than 60 residents had the pleasure of listening to music performed by Tropical Islanders, a steel band trio who performed traditional songs from the Caribbean. Milton Godfrey of Barbara Glasgow House played his guitar and entertained the audience with songs from the Caribbean and Africa which encouraged a few to take to the dance floor.  

Residents enjoyed a variety of mouth-watering dishes including fried fish, jerk pork, fried and barbeque chicken, callaloo, cabbage and saltfish, rice, fried dumplings and patties, with fruit punch to wash it down.  A selection of cakes and Caribbean breads and buns were also available for all to enjoy.  Residents said they thoroughly enjoyed the day and would like to attend future events.

three members of staff celebrate Black History monthKent event and Quiz

Staff in our Kent region put together a Black History Month event for colleagues with African and Caribbean food tasting. The team ran a quiz to test their knowledge of Black History. They then held a BHM themed team meeting with more traditional food!

Once again, thank you to all who joined in our celebrations for Black History Month. Our commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) continues throughout the year and if you'd like to get involved with one of our EDI forums, please contact our EDI team: